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Cochrane Generals top Heritage north, Chaos top Junior Female south

Cochrane will get its fill of playoff hockey this year with the Generals clinching top spot in the Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) north division, and the Cochrane Chaos topping the south division for the Alberta Junior Female Hockey League (AJFHL).

Cochrane will get its fill of playoff hockey this year with the Generals clinching the top spot in the Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) north division, and the Cochrane Chaos topping the south division for the Alberta Junior Female Hockey League (AJFHL).

Back-to-back wins against the Airdrie Thunder Friday and Saturday was all the Gens needed to secure home-ice advantage, and a bye in the first round of playoffs, with two more regular-season games left.

"We're feeling really good," said assistant coach Erik Krigel. "This was a goal that we set at the beginning of the season, and we set smaller goals throughout the season to be able to achieve where we're at now."

By winning pockets of games against some stronger teams, maintaining the Gens high level of play against weaker teams, and focusing on offensive, defensive systems and special teams, Krigel believes the Gens were able to set themselves apart. 

The cherry on top of what was an already celebratory weekend for the team, happened when captain Patrick Forde scored his 50th regular season goal. He is only the second to do so in the Generals roster history. 

The top spot is still held by Gens alumnus Connor Rendell, who now plays for the University of Oregon Ducks, with 54 single-season goals. 

"Everybody on the team understands what an achievement that is, and everybody was just very supportive and congratulatory toward Patrick," said Krigel. "Patrick also let everybody know that he didn't reach that goal alone, and that everybody else had helped him to get to that moment.

"This wasn't handed to him, he worked his butt off for it and it's quite an accomplishment. It's very well-deserved."

The league record of 56 goals is held by two players: Jeff Jaquish who played for the Airdrie Thunder in 1995-96, matched later by Sean Fryer, who played for the Okotoks Bisons in 2005-06.

While they've secured top spot in the north, Krigel said it would be foolish to drop their guard now, especially against their two remaining competitors, the Coaldale Copperheads and Red Deer Vipers, the latter of which has been nipping at the heels of the Gens in the standings for most of the season. 

"Everybody's focused on true north, everybody's focused on winning the championship and moving on to provincials," said the coach.

"A team that goes into playoffs on a high tends to be successful. The focus is to win these two final games and we're not taking anybody lightly."

The Gens took first in the south in their 2016-17 season and went on to win the south playoff title, though they ended up losing the league championship to Red Deer. That same year, the Gens took home silver at provincials. 

They play away in Red Deer Feb. 5 and at home against Coaldale Feb. Feb. 6 at the Cochrane Arena.

Chaos reign over AJFHL south

Cochrane's Junior Female hockey team, meanwhile, have been tallying up their game win streak to 15 — also securing the top spot in their league's south division to gain the home-ice advantage.

The Chaos have four regular season games left before playoffs begin Feb. 18, and they still have plenty of potential to secure the top overall spot. 

"The whole year we've been pretty focused on just playing our game, really working on our systems, trying to stay competitive and push all the time," said head coach Derek Loomer. "With the energy and what we bring to the rink, the outcomes have been great — the girls are really working hard."

The Junior team played at home Friday, Jan. 29, and Jan. 31 against the Calgary Jags and Southern Sage, winning 7-1 against the Jags and 17-1 versus the Sage, in a landslide.

"In games like that, you can take the foot off the gas and get into some bad habits," said Loomer. "I think that's really why we focus on ignoring the score up there and just sticking to our structure, continuing to go and attack."

Two of the four remaining games in the Chaos' regular season will take place in a showcase series held in Red Deer, against the Lakeland College Rustlers and Edmonton Wolves, who play for the north and lead the division in first and second place.

The league's AAA teams will also be in attendance to play throughout the weekend and Loomer said the annual event tends to attract a lot of scouts, which makes for a great opportunity for all players.

"They'll get a chance to look at what our girls are doing and maybe think of us should they be kicking the tires on looking for players down the road," he said.

The team's final two regular season games are at Winsport Feb. 12 against the Calgary Titans and then at home Feb. 13 against the Southern Sage at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre.